Do not hire that salesperson!

Unless he or she can answer these sales competency questions

Recruiting, hiring and firing remain at the top of sales force management priorities. New Hampshire companies face a special challenge, with our state having among the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. Top salespeople are enjoying the fruits of a strong economy now so you probably won’t find any of them knocking on your door looking for a job.

Competing for the top sales talent remains one of the biggest challenges for New Hampshire businesses, which leads to a lot of bad hiring decisions. Owners and managers feel competitive pressure to fill their sales positions with the best people they can find at the time. Urgency can cloud hiring judgment. Good vibes and gut feelings often override good strategy when hiring. These are some of the reasons for you to focus like a laser beam on your sales recruiting strategy.

During the interview process, some managers will wing it by getting into a business conversation with the candidate that may feel very encouraging. Instead, they should be asking the tough and relevant questions about generating actual sales results, then listening intently to the answers.

Instead of gauging the conversational and social skills of the candidate, sales managers need to be concerned with real professional sales skills. Being a good talker and having lots of social connections do not determine a salesperson’s ability to identify real business opportunities and skillfully seize

So how do you ferret out the best recruits in your hiring process? The short answer is to ask better interview questions. The right interview questions can be fashioned with the help of a tool we call SEARCH, which we wrote about in the March 18-31, 2016, issue of NH Business Review.

SEARCH is an acronym standing for Skills, Experience, Attitude, Results, Cognition and Habits. Your interview questions need to drill into each of these areas to find out if a candidate has what it takes to sell professionally and achieve real success numbers. It would help to look at SEARCH again from a different angle.

Using SEARCH will help you develop specific questions for each candidate. Your specific interview questions will reveal how well a candidate measures up in six key areas of sales competency:

 • Does the candidate have needed Skills in verbal communication, office technology, client service and relationship building?

 • Did the right work Experience develop the candidate’s ability to sell for your company?

 • Is the candidate’s Attitude positive and does it fit in with your organizational culture?

 • Have they achieved significant sales Results in their previous position(s) that will translate to successful results for your business?

 • What about Cognitive abilities like thinking on their feet and solving tough problems when confronted?

 • Do they exhibit desirable Habits like organization, prospecting discipline and punctuality?

There is a lot more to sales recruiting and hiring than we can cover in this article, but starting with the right set of questions keeps the focus on the business of selling. It takes a certain kind of person to engage in bareknuckle competition over market share and come out on top. A good sales interview strategy must include probing questions that dig below the surface of a person’s social skills and get to the heart of what professional sales is really all about.

Remember that there are lots of mediocre salespeople who are great at interviewing. Using an ad hoc, conversational approach to the interview has many pitfalls and the wrong sales hire can be expensive and even damage your reputation.

Avoid the temptation to expeditiously fill your sales positions. Take the time and apply the effort needed to identify the real winners from among all the good talkers.

Kevin Hallenbeck, principal of Sandler Training- Manchester, can be reached at 603-232-1520 or through

Categories: Business Advice